Questions raised over mayor's R20m Richards Bay mansion project
The cash-strapped city of Umhlathuze on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast is spending an estimated R20-million on a mansion for its mayor‚ Mduduzi Gift Mhlongo.
That's according to the Democratic Alliance‚ who are now asking for municipal officials to answer for the multi-million spend on a housing project that according to plans turns out to be an elaborate home for its mayor‚ with a guard's residence and garden.
DA councillor in Umhlathuze Christo Botha has written to munipal manager Nhlanhla Sibeko to seek clarity on where the funding for the mansion is sourced and why the project has not been communicated to the council and the public.
In a statement on Sunday‚ Botha said construction of the mansion was already under way in the Meerensee suburb of Richards Bay‚ where clearing on the 4470m² yard has begun. He said the land has been zoned as high-density residential three and has an estimated worth of between R5-million to R6.5-million.
“A further concern is that the development notice says the clearing is intended for municipal housing‚ with no mention of the fact that the mayor’s mansion is to be erected‚” said Botha.
He said an inspection of the building floor plans reveals that the mansion is estimated to cover 912.65m²‚ with the remaining 3557.35m² of the plot being designated for the guards quarters and a garden area.
“Consultation with a few building contractors has estimated that development for high-flying politicians can range around R13 500 per square meter‚ bringing construction cost to R12.32-million.
“This excludes the erection of the boundary wall‚ landscaping and paving and security features which can raise the cost by an added R2-million. There is still the cost of furniture and interior decoration that could escalate from anything between R750 000 to R1.5-million if we are being modest and the continued housekeeping and garden maintenance costs can range from R20 000 to R25 000 a month.”
Botha said if this plot was used correctly‚ with the cash injection of the R20-million‚ a public-private partnership could see the development of 40 to 65 residential apartments valued at anything between R450 000 to R600 000 each‚ providing an added cash injection to the city of between R29.2-million and R39-million.
“Money that can be invested in social housing or the city’s health care‚ monies that can be injected into youth business development or a booster injection to fixing the city’s infrastructure‚” said Botha.
He added that there was no need for a mayor to have a private residence at the expense of the taxpayer “nor is there a need for a mayor to have security equivalent to a president”.
“The DA in Umhlathuze will fight tooth and nail to bring to a halt to this obvious waste of public funds‚ and we will follow all due processes to ensure that public funds are not deep pockets for ANC cronies and corrupt politicians.”
Botha said the city of Umhlathuze's economy was non-existent with tourism not being their strongest point and the continued dilapidating infrastructure a frequent knock on progress. Umhlathuze was the only municipality running a road levy and imposing exorbitant fees to sporting and social clubs‚ he said.
Umhlathuze spokesman Mdu Ncalane said they will respond to the DA’s statement later on Monday.